There is a new name in the Chicago cable.
RCN, a cable and internet provider available to nearly one million homes in Chicago and suburbs, is rebranding Astound Broadband, joining jointly owned regional services such as Grande, Wave and Digital West under a new national banner.
Wednesday’s announcement gives New Jersey-based Astound, the sixth-largest cable operator in the United States, more marketing clout as industry giants such as Comcast and AT&T compete, with an eye on growing their broadband customer base.
Customers will see the new name on everything from invoices to truck repairs.
Even our technicians are wearing new uniforms,” said Tom McKay, senior vice president and general manager of Astound Broadband Chicago.
Stonepeak, a New York-based private equity firm, bought Astound — the parent company of RCN and other regional cable providers — for $8.1 billion in August. Astound has more than one million subscribers in Chicago, New York and other markets from New England to the Pacific Northwest, with aspirations of becoming a bigger player under the new name.
In November, Astound completed the purchase of WOW! valued at $661 million, which added more than 75,000 customers in the western suburbs of Chicago, as well as service areas in Evansville, Indiana, and Anne Arundel, Maryland. Fabulous! Over the next several months, McKay said, customers will be transitioning to the Astound brand.
Astound declined to specify subscriber count in the Chicago area between RCN and WOW! , but the company plans to launch an aggressive marketing campaign in Chicago to introduce the new name and attract new customers, McKay said.
Putting broadband into the name is part of Astound’s growth strategy, and it reflects broader industry trends.
Traditional cable and satellite providers lost more than 5.1 million subscribers during the first nine months of 2021, according to data from industry analysts Moffett Nathanson. The losses in the pay-TV industry were partially offset by gains in streaming services such as Sling TV, DirecTV Stream and Hulu + Live TV.
Meanwhile, cable and telecom companies added nearly 2.7 million broadband subscribers during the first nine months of 2021, according to Moffett-Nathanson.
“Less and fewer people are taking cable nowadays,” McKay said. “They’re finding their way into streaming services…and broadband is key.”
RCN Chicago is selling its online streaming services to new clients as it moves away from traditional cable connections. McKay said legacy customers can still maintain the cable video service.
wow! The acquisition brought thousands of new customers from Rolling Meadows to Naperville, the southern suburbs and the city. Astound is looking to build its broadband infrastructure in those markets to reach the non-wired apartment buildings and “disadvantaged subdivisions” that are a hit! McKay said.
RCN Chicago serves the northern suburbs of Evanston, Lincolnwood, and Skokie, as well as twenty Chicago neighborhoods. Over the past two years, RCN has expanded broadband service to the Fulton Market, Westtown, and Logan Square neighborhoods of Chicago. McKay said the Switch sales arena is touting a broadband service that is “usually cheaper than the competition.”
Astound has about 240 employees and is in a “hiring frenzy” to add 32 jobs, mostly to fill gaps in the newly acquired WOW! McKay said. New hires will include customer service, service technicians, sales and other customer-facing jobs.
McKay said future growth plans could take Astound to other Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs, with a state license allowing it to “build anywhere” in Illinois.
“You will grow up,” Mackay said. “I don’t have expectations at this point, but it will grow every year.”